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Israel eyeing Africa arms exports

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(source: HAARETZ)

by Staff Writers

Nigeria has signed a $25 million deal with Israel Shipyards for the construction and delivery of two Shaldag patrol boats. The deal was revealed by Israeli media in the wake of a controversial nine-nation Africa trip — including Nigeria — by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister. Under the deal, Nigerian crews will also be trained — some of them have already done so — in Israel.
Shaldag patrol boat.

The $25 million deal is said to have been clinched through Amit Sadeh, a middle-man implicated in the "controversial sale of air and sea drones by the Yavneh-based Aeronautics Ventures to the Nigerian defense ministry," the AllAfrica Web site reported.

Similar reports in the Israeli press said the boats and intelligence equipment included in the agreement were expected to be used by the Nigerian forces to combat rebels in the Niger River Delta region, heightening allegations that Israel is meddling in the African country's domestic affairs. By some accounts, one of the two Shaldag patrol boats had already been delivered to Nigeria. News of the deal capped a raft of unprecedented trade agreements Lieberman signed during his visit in a bid to boost relations between Israel and Nigeria, one of the largest, wealthiest and most important countries in Africa. The obvious intent of Lieberman's Africa tour — it takes him through Ethiopia, Angola, Uganda and Kenya — aims to extend Israeli help in tackling the continent's plaguing problems of hunger, health and limited water resources. "There is no doubt that the most important need of Africa is countering hunger and water shortages," said Haaretz, quoting Haim Dibon, deputy director of Israel's Foreign Ministry. Still, the less-publicized aspect of the Africa odyssey targets Israel's bid to increase its defense exports, the Israel-based Haaretz daily reported.

What's more, Haaretz reported, the trip also aims to develop cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering, with the aim of targeting militant Islamist elements. A number of Israeli intelligence representatives are accompanying Lieberman on his trip, along with prominent businessmen and diplomats. Israeli trade with Africa is estimated at $3 billion and the Israel Export Institute anticipates Lieberman's latest trip will secure an addition $1 billion in Israeli exports. As a bridge of cooperation, Israelis have eyed connections with the large and influential community of Israeli businessmen in Nigeria. Their activities predominantly focus on the fields of agriculture, infrastructure and arms.

In recent years, Israel and Nigeria have signed a string of arms deals totaling about $500 million, Haaretz said.


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